Posted by: robbiexgibson | 16 June, 2009


Looking back, it’s a year since we did our first “Change the world” session. Wow! A quick personal note first of all to say “thank you” to everybody for participating and sharing last night in what turned out to be a very emotional evening – for lots of reasons!

Last night we looked at the plight of those in prison – or those who suffer when a loved one or family member is in prison. First of all we called to mind a few scripture passages relating to imprisonment, including Joseph , Paul and Silas, the parable of the sheep and the goats and Christ’s imprisonment. (I found it interesting to look at the proportion that deal with false imprisonment.)

We next moved on to look at the purpose of prison. Is it punishment? Deterrence? Retribution? Rehabilitation? Partition? All of the above? And why do people end up in prison? Innate evil? One stupid mistake? Bad luck?

Finally, we looked at what we could do as a project. These can be broken down into 3 categories – for me the list is in ascending order of comfort.

  1. Caring for prisoners: prison visiting, writing to prisoners, giving presents
  2. Caring for prisoners’ families: financial or practical help, accompanying children on family visit
  3. Fixing the system: highlighting abuse, holding prisons and police accountable, letter writing

Richard showed us a video produced by the Relais Enfants Parents which touched me quite deeply. But I’m just a big softy.

Did I miss anything? Where shall we go with this?



  1. Thanks for leading the session Robbie. My vote is to pursue to Relais Enfants Parents option. Any counter-proposals?

  2. P.S. You big softy you! But I think that is a good thing… heart of flesh and all that.

  3. Relais Enfants Parents sounds great, and not just because Richard says so 😉 Can I borrow the video ‘cos I didn’t see it. Are we doing prisons in action next Tues or Mark?

  4. On the advice of Elizabeth Bean, I phoned Pat Burkard’s daughter, Katy, because her church near Arras is working in prisons in the north of France, through their priest, who is accepted because he is a former policeman. One thing they do is provide English paperbacks for English-speaking prisoners, who are quite numerous in that region. Most of them are lorry drivers who have been caught smuggling (drugs, booze, people…). One church member who is a teacher teaches English as part of the prison education programme.

    This sort of thing is further out of the comfort zone (IMHO) than Relais Enfants Parents, because the people involved in some sense “deserve” to be where they are. Would you go out of your way to help someone who had been found with a truckful of deep-frozen asylum seekers? On the other hand, imagine being imprisoned in a place where you don’t understand a word of the language. Can you hate the sin and love the sinner, in practice?

  5. I telephoned Relais Enfants Parents and it turns out that the next ‘one-off’ event will be Christmas, so we should get in touch in November if we are interested in helping on that occasion.

    So we can decide:
    – to do something else altogether (e.g. Gill’s idea)
    – to do something else now and R.E.L. at Christmas
    – to do R.E.L. at Christmas and move on rapidly to the next chapter of the book to find something somewhat shorter-term.

    See you tonight.

  6. So we decided…
    – to get in touch with R.E.P. in November and see if we can help out with the Christmas visits
    – to see where Gill’s enquiries lead us

  7. I called Relais Enfants Parents and they haven’t get got everything organised for this year, but she took my number and should call us back soon. Someone remind me to call again in a couple of weeks if we’ve not heard anything.

    The visits will be on Wednesdays in December and possibly January.

  8. Crazy…. I think I finally got in touch with the right person at R.E.P..

    The good news: they’d like extra help. The bad news: we’ve already missed the boat for Christmas!!! (Yes, I know, I’ve been calling them since June… looks like we spoke to the wrong person before). So we are now aiming at the fetes des peres/meres in May/June!

    The procedure:
    1. We give our full names (including maiden names if relevant), date of birth, place of birth, current address to them.
    2. They do a check to see if we have a criminal record of any sort: if yes, we can’t do anything.
    3. Once the check is complete, we meet their representative (M. Emmanuel Gallaud (sp?)) who presents the process, explains the commitment, etc..
    4. If they and we are happy, we move forward.

    At last, a process that sounds official enough to be correct!

    I think we should still proceed. We’ll get there in the end. If you are happy to participate, can you send me the details above (by email)?

  9. Wow, they actually get the «casier judiciaire» for you? You’ve got mail.

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